What Makes a Great Leader


My first real job during and after college was working for Candy.  Candy is an amazing leader.  From time to time, I’d blow it.  I would fill out an application incorrectly for a client, miss an overnight shipment drop by mistake because I put it in the FedEx box instead of UPS or I broke the refrigerator.  Each time as I would sheepishly approach her about it, she would respond, “If that’s the worst thing that happened today, you’re doing great! Most people can’t even say that.”  She knew that I gave her my best.  Some of these mistakes could have had significant impacts on the business, but she always maintained an amazing attitude.  Of all the things she taught me over the seven years I worked for her, and there were many, her amazing attitude was the most powerful.

Now, working with the fantastic SalesBy5, I have an amazing team surrounding me, with another great leader.  Sometimes, things don’t always go the way I need them to.  Hey, mistakes happen.  Every time, I think about how Candy would respond. I try my best to always issue the same response, and then help my team get back on their feet to get the situation resolved.  For me, an amazing attitude is easy when things are great.  When the amazing attitude remains even when circumstances aren’t great is when you see a true leader.  Remember, leadership has nothing to do with your title; it’s an attitude.  I hope I can live up to the examples set for me.

What do you think it takes to be a great leader?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

As seen on MySA.com

How to Make Work Suck Less

nan young.jpg

When I was a kid, every 6 weeks I was required to present my report card to my dad to review and discuss.  In 5th grade, I came home with a report card that only had A’s and B’s on it. He saw the number of B’s and determined that it was excessive and that I was to be grounded.  My dad was always creative in grounding me.  This time we went to K-Mart where he purchased different colored pocket t-shirts.  He informed me that during the coming 6 weeks, I would strictly be wearing these pocket t-shirts and my hair gel would be taken away.  Needless to say, I can’t wear a pocket t-shirt to this day since it is still associated with punishment.

According to the Gallup Organization, looking at grades this way is not unusual.  Here’s what their studies found:

“We presented parents with this scenario: Say your child returns home with the following grades: an A in English, an A in social studies, a C in biology, and an F in algebra. Which of these grades would you spend the most time discussing with your son or daughter? Seventy-seven percent of parents chose to focus on the F in algebra, only six percent on the A in English, and an even more minuscule number, one percent, on the A in social studies. Obviously, the algebra grade requires some attention because to progress in school and secure a place at a college or university, the child cannot afford to fail a subject.” (emphasis mine)

How would life be different for you and those around you, though, if you looked at maximizing your strengths and managing around your weaknesses?  First, it’s important to recognize that a strength is an activity that you are good at AND fulfills you.  It must meet both of those requirements or else it’s not a strength.  On the other hand, a weakness is an activity that you may or may not be good at, but leaves you drained, bored, or in essence, weak, after completing it.

When a person has their strengths (as defined above) engaged, they find that they have greater energy, are more engaged and are more productive.  A study by Marcus Buckingham shows these results in large corporations.  Strengths becomes even more powerful when a company (hat tip to Rackspace) or organization makes an effort to have everyone play to their strengths together.  If you’re interested in your personal development, Buckingham’s book Go Put Your Strengths to Work can help.  Would you like more details on how this works for you or your company?  Drop me a line, I can help you better understand how applying strengths can raise the performance of you and your team.

As seen on MySA.com

Three Action Items Towards Success


This week, I’d like for you to take three steps towards a better company.  These are going to seem small initially, but if you do them every week, your level of clarity in your company will rise and increase your odds of success.

1.  Create a stop doing list. Companies, just like governments, are excellent at creating new laws, new rules and new action items.  On the flip side, they’re terrible at ending old laws and killing rules that are no longer relevant.  You’re likely either doing actions that no longer matter or perpetuating them.  Create a list of things to stop doing, and then stop.  Make it your goal to stop doing two items for every item you put on your to-do list.

2.  Fire everyone mentally. If you were to fire everyone in the company today, who would you rehire with enthusiasm?  Oftentimes you’ll find that the people you wouldn’t rehire with enthusiasm are not the right fit for your team anyway.  Additionally, if you do choose to fire those people, you’ll usually hear this from the people that remain: “What took so long!?”

3.  Review your core values. Your company has core values, right?  Core values exist for the people in your company to make great decisions.  Are you hiring, firing, promoting and demoting based on these values?  Are you and your team living up to these values?  For these business core values, it’s been proven that it doesn’t matter exactly what your values are, just that you have them and everyone lives by them.  Your core values may not translate over to our company and vice versa and that’s okay.

Consistently taking small action steps in life produces huge results over time.  These three action items will play a part in ensuring that you and your team achieve your goals by keeping your focus, maintaining that the right people are involved and verifying that everyone’s actions are aligned with the company’s needs.

Photo by BigBlue

As seen on MySA.com

Leadership Lesson from Laundry

Late Sunday night Ashley and I returned from our honeymoon and unsurprisingly, there was a significant amount of laundry to be done.  Ashley tends to wash clothes on warm/hot while I wash on cold.  When I threw in my load of laundry, it was set to hot.  I suggested to Ashley that cold would suffice and she pushed back that she would be happy to take care of it.  I then reminded her that she had had a few laundry “issues” recently with the loss being a few sets of sheets. (stupid move, Nan)  I suggested that I would happily wash my own laundry for the rest of our lives with no issues, after all, I had a list a mile long on why cold water washes were better for my clothes.  Ashley became upset. I had blown it.

For me this conversation was no big deal and I was wrong.  By pushing hard on this I was forcing her out of the role that she has been dying to play her whole life – being the wife, caregiver and person in charge of making our house a home.  In this situation, I had made an error in leadership.  I was failing to delegate, trapping me into doing something that I didn’t need to be doing and taking a special feeling away from my wife.  Hopefully, these lessons will become easier everytime.  This particular one spoke to me and it is shaping me to be a better leader overall.

photo by mudpig